An important part of running a successful choir is getting the right balance in rehearsals. You want the choir to bond as a team and make friendships but you don't want to be teaching over chatter - even if it's singers discussing the music! As irritating as chatter can be to you as the choir leader, if the room was completely silent all of the time it would be a bit un-nerving and you'd be convinced no-one was having a good time! Striking the correct balance is therefore vital to the choir's health. Here are five tried and tested strategies to keep well paced and ordered rehearsals and in turn everyone's attention without losing the fun.
Make sure you have a well structured rehearsal plan created in advance so that you know what you want to achieve in that session. Create a good balance of new and current repertoire so that the session's not all new learning which can lead to a lack of concentration if singers become overwhelmed. Similarly, if you are just working on songs the choir know well, attention spans may wane. Try and vary the structure of rehearsals week by week so that it's not always the same formula. If people expect the unexpected they will probably give you more attention and their anticipation will also lead to better attendance.
Divert if necessary
Don't be scared to divert from your plan if you sense something is not going well. For example, if there is a section of a new piece which the choir are struggling with, of course it needs to be worked on but don't let it take up too much rehearsal time, return to it the following week perhaps asking people to work on it in the meantime using your rehearsal tracks. If you keep at it people will start getting fidgety and de-motivated particularly if they feel it's difficult. Instead sing through something which they know or are more confident with for a while.
Create social opportunity
Make sure your singers have plenty of opportunity to socialise. Consider a refreshment break during rehearsal or invite members to join you for a drink in the local pub or bar afterwards. This way when you need them to be quiet and concentrate on the music in rehearsal, they will know that there is plenty of opportunity to catch up with friends later. In addition to this arranging social events for your choir is a good way to further the bond between members. We hold events twice a year for our choirs at which they can be as noisy as they like!
Don't forget to laugh
Good interaction with your choir will probably involve some humour and this is a really important element of the choir bonding as a team with you their leader. However when funny moments occur quickly quieten things down again diverting focus back to the music to avoid noise levels rising. It is much easier to control the noise level before it gets too elevated. If you're regularly having to stop to quieten a noisy room you may feel exhausted and unfulfilled after the rehearsal.
Have some re-focusing tools
If you feel people are restless and chatty quickly re-gain their attention by having a handful of fun, quirky exercises up your sleeve. These are particularly useful to re-energise your singers perhaps after the break or as it gets later into the evening. Team-building exercises work best here, such as simple songs or rounds with actions. When doing exercises like this they require so much focus that it's impossible to think about anything else let alone chatting!